The publishing industry is Rasputin. Somebody’s just not feeding it enough poison. Or maybe academia keeps providing the antidote. What will it take to kill it? The art, movie and music trades have all been rebirthing, why can’t we writers get some real relief?
I have poems, mini-essays, a poetry book and a cookbook hanging around my house waiting for me to figure out what to do with them without wounding my spirit. I stopped submitting three years ago when I kept feeling sick at the thought. I did put out an anthology of mushroom poems Decomposition in April 2010 with my quasi-spouse but that’s only because the project preceded this soul sickness.
Most bookstores only carry books from publishing distributors. Many magazines won’t let me–or anyone else–review a book if it’s self-published. And yet what do publishers really do for writers anymore that I didn’t have to do by myself with Decomposition? Besides the cover* choice and layout–which I would have rather done myself–what else was given? Niente. Do writers have to compromise and settle for a “deal” with a pathetic royalty rate and a measly advance? Or go it alone and be “black-listed” from distributors and bookstores?
If you’re a poet, good luck making any money, decent sales** or getting help in marketing. Short story writers, ditto. If you happen to work in a popular genre, like crime or historical fiction, it’s slightly better. Regardless the publishing house, many editors barely f@#king read your book let alone do their job. [many kind agents now do editing tasks] Or they take the teeth out of your work. They’re flooded with manuscripts, understaffed and way overworked. Traditional publishers don’t seem that interested in quality writing anymore but they’re sure interested in sales volume. They might refuse to publish your book because it’s too controversial, doesn’t fit a category or believe it won’t sell.
The whining that goes on by these “poor” publishing houses is eerily similar to the ultra-wealthy complaining about a tax increase they’ll barely feel. Substitute any other business who does so little yet demands so much from it’s clientele—would this be seen as a sound business model? And the academic houses are the biggest bawlers. Well, sorry. Ice boxes had to give way to refrigerators; it’s past time to junk this archaic arrangement.
With indie-publishing, the author has more control over contents, design, appearance and where the book is marketed and distributed. Yes, there’s a risk that with no editors the grammar and spelling will suck or there’ll be no story there. But jeez, lots of books suck now.
To speed up this process, we need some big-time writers to ditch this sinking system and legitimize self-publishing, like Radiohead and Wilco did the in music industry. And writers, stop being so insecure that you need big daddy to validate you as an “accomplished” writer. Let’s stop coddling publishing houses—all of them—and start a revolution: do it yourself.
* I love my cover!
**Decomposition may be my publisher’s best seller; I’m still not getting anything.